7 common design mistakes and how to avoid them

7 common design mistakes and how to avoid them

Photography: Joel Klassen | Story: A Bright Calgary Living Room With Bohemian Flair


7 common design mistakes and how to avoid them

Steer clear of these slip-ups and you’ll be on track for your sleekest interior to date. 

When it comes to interior design there are no rules, as such. Sure, your Insta feed will sell you all manner of decor, style and shopping suggestions, but besides the odd rhyme discouraging certain colour combos (blue and green should never be seen unless there’s something in-between – but wait, didn’t we disprove that this year what with all the navy walls, forest-hued velvet sofas and foliage aplenty?) there’s little info to help us discern design mistakes before we make them.

Of course, mistakes made are lessons learnt, but design errors can be costly and can cause major setbacks. Therefore, to help you skip any false starts in the first place, we have compiled a list of 7 of the most common design mistakes, along with how to avoid them altogether.


1. Accenting the wrong walls

We’re willing to bet your home’s had its very own feature wall once or twice (or perhaps thrice) over the years. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with accenting a single wall using paint, paper or murals, highlighting the wrong wall can draw unwanted attention to less attractive fittings, such as radiators, appliances and doors. “The trick is to ask yourself, “Is this a feature that I want to highlight in my home?”,” says Samantha Pynn, decorator, stylist and television personality.

Avoid: No need to shun accent walls altogether. Simply scope out your options before committing. “The best walls to highlight are bedhead walls and fireplace walls,” says Pynn.


2. Furniture overload

Let’s clear something up: Not every space needs to be filled with furniture. We’re referring, of course, to the living room corners that all too often get plied with pieces to prevent the space from feeling sparse. The consequence? A cluttered and impractical layout. “Placing too many pieces of furniture around the perimeter of the room makes a space feel smaller and less functional,” says Pynn.

Avoid: Simple as it may seem, sell, donate or repurpose any pieces that don't serve a purpose. “A living space will work best if you arrange the furniture for watching TV and engaging in conversation,” says Pynn. Organize seating so that everybody can see one another, and if empty corners make you uncomfortable, invest in artwork and potted plants to pep them up.


3. Skimping on storage

It’s one thing to overdo it on the furniture. It’s quite another to fall short. Without ample storage to stash possessions, your home is at risk of becoming cluttered, which can cause unnecessary stress (ever tried to locate keys/an urgent bill/a missing sock in a sea of stuff? Not fun).

Avoid: Be realistic about your belongings and their storage requirements, and take this into consideration when redecorating. That way, more practical furnishings, such as ottoman beds and additional cupboards, can be factored into the design and budget so there aren’t any surprise expenses when you realize your single wardrobe can’t accommodate your shoe collection.


4. Following fads

By all means, buy yourself those palm print cushion covers, but be aware that trends can be fleeting. While smaller accessories can be switched out if you tire of the trend, more permanent features, such as wallpaper and flooring, aren’t so easy – or cheap – to replace.

Avoid: Try not to make any decor decisions on a whim. Live in the space for a while before committing to any kind of scheme, and discover what the room will benefit from. If you’re tempted by a trend then consider experimenting with it in a small, lesser-used space, such as a washroom or understairs cupboard. Alternatively, try implementing the trend slowly, first with trinkets and trim, until you decide whether it can go the distance or not.


5. Investing in disposable design

Leading on from our previous point, if you know you’ll only be into the current cool motif for a couple of months (pineapples, we’re looking at you), steer clear of splashing cash on items that are likely to be tossed once you’re over it. Equally, avoid splurging on low-quality pieces – particularly textiles – that will wear and need replacing quickly.

Avoid: “Shop with a decreeing eye,” says Pynn. “Ask yourself, “will I love this for years? And, if I stop loving it, will someone else love it?” Look for the best quality that you can afford, even if it means waiting until you find that right item, or until you can afford what you want. I’ve always loved the William Morris quote: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’.”


6. Giving little thought to lighting

A single, overhead pendant does little in the way of function or ambiance. Without carefully considered lighting, you risk a room that lacks in both comfort and practicality (ever tried to apply makeup with overhead lighting casting shadows on your face?).

Avoid: Lighting should be layered for best effect – some stylists even recommend as many as eight light sources. Start with task lighting or spots to illuminate workspaces, such as kitchen worktops, bathroom mirrors and desks, then build around it. Add lamps and string lights to help you alter the mood of the room, and additional spots to highlight artwork and focal points. Candles are essential for creating a cozy vibe.


7. Not going with your gut

It can be easy to let loved ones and influencers cloud your vision and send you off course with their own ideas and suggestions. The problem? By not trusting your instincts you chance creating a look that you aren’t all that happy with.

Avoid: Take tips, advice and ideas on board, but prioritize your own preferences over those of others. After all, it’s you that has to live with the end result. More often than not, trusting your gut will pay off. And if not, remember that most mistakes can easily be rectified.



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7 common design mistakes and how to avoid them